Cosmic Adventure through Science and Faith

We live in a time of experts.  Most of us have very little idea how most of the essential things in our world actually work.  I’m right now typing these words on a computer and I have no real sense of how it works, no clue what really is inside this machine.  I know it has chips and I’ve seen a few of them.  But I have no clue how those little things can bring me onto YouTube to binge on Will Farrell videos.

But I do know how I can access an expert to help me when it crashes and wont re-boot (please, Lord, my that not happen now, I have Will Farrell videos to watch after writing this!).  We even call them geniuses—or at least, Apple does.  It can be quite a frightening reality to recognize you’re dependent on an expert but have no access to one. What do you do if you realize something wrong with your ports or hard drive when you’re traveling?  What do we do when but need an expert but have no access to one?  Your options, if you can’t get to an expert, is either to deny that the thing needing expertise is important—who needs a USB drive anyhow? They’re bad technology—or just ignore it all together.

A few years ago some friends and I started working on a grant for the John Templeton Foundation called Science for Youth Ministry (not the sexiest of names, I know).  We interviewed a bunch of youth pastors.  What we discovered is that all of them were confronted with scientific questions from their young people. Like, does the bible oppose evolution?  If everything dies, does that mean God’s not in control, or does God like killing things?  If the universe is still expanding why did God makes so much space?  If there are aliens would Jesus still matter?  

Of course, these are actually harder than just scientific questions.  They’re questions that put the scientific theories, like evolution and big bang cosmology, in direct conversation with the commitments of faith—that God is love and is full of grace.  Every youth pastor we interviewed had an experience of being asked a question like this.  After all, as young people’s pastoral figure it only makes sense that they’d ask the youth worker questions that bring the scientific and faith together.  Yet, what we discovered is that very, very few youth workers felt comfortable answering.  Most felt like they weren’t qualified.  So, lacking expertise, they either imagined the questions unimportant or, of knew they were, just shamefully ignored them.  

But we think that these two options are obliviously not adequate.  If we truly want to pass on faith then wrestling with these questions is essential.  But this takes us back to expertise—how do you do that without help?  

Well, one option is to add science classes to youth worker training.  A little of that might help (I’m available for seminars! ;)).  But it’s totally unrealistic to assume that a youth worker can become a science major.  So the other option is to encourage you to turn to your congregation.  My bet is that there are scientists in your midst.  Start getting to know them.  And after you do, invite them to help you lead a four-week session with your young people.  

But of course, these scientists are busy, so asking them to plan it might be a deal-breaker or lead them to give a graduate level physics lecture to 7th graders.  So to help you in this we’ve created four videos with four talk sheets (mini-curriculum) you can use.  It is totally free and, we think, well done—so your kids will like it (they’re kid tested and approved).  And to boot, these videos star a real life astrophysicist, Paul Wallace.  Take a look and tell us what you think, and share with us how it worked with your young people.  They’re completely free, so pass them around!  

CURRICULUM

A Cosmic Adventure through Science & Faith

Check out the curriculum and four accompanying videos, all available for FREE!

 

Learn more…

This article was made possible by Science for Youth Ministry in association with Luther Seminary and the John Templeton Foundation. Learn more at www.scienceym.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/scienceforYM.


About the Author: Andrew Root

Andrew Root (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Carrie Olson Baalson associate professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. A former Young Life staff worker, he has served in churches and social service agencies as a youth outreach associate and a gang prevention counselor.

Dr. Andrew Root is the Carrie Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, USA. He writes and researches in areas of theology and youth ministry. His most recent books are Christopraxis (Fortress Press, 2014) and Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker (Baker, 2014).


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